“Now if the Army is blocking INEC officials from moving, this is a new dimension that we have not heard of before and I thought the business of the Army is basically to check people who are carrying offensive weapons, I do not know if card reader is now an offensive weapon. I have complained to the Brigade Commander, Major General Olaleye and you have also heard me mentioning it to the Electoral Officer (E.O).
Edo State Governor, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole has raised the alarm over alleged restriction of INEC officials and journalists by soldiers. Oshiomhole said the restriction had prevented INEC officials in Edo North from carrying out their lawful duties, describing the development as shocking.
The Governor who noted that the soldiers must have gotten an illegal order from their Commander said, “yesterday (Friday) I addressed the Press and I did say that Brigadier Odidi has chosen to frustrate this exercise in Edo North. Ironically, Brigadier Odidi is from Agenebode and he is the one who is giving this unlawful order.”
A statement by Peter Okhiria, chief press secretary to the governor alleged that INEC officials who were taking election materials to Ward 10, Unit 1 in Iyamho, Etsako West Local Government Area were stopped by soldiers who had laid siege to the hometown of the governor? He said the INEC officials told reporters that they were forced to sit on the ground alongside their police escort for several hours.
They were later allowed to leave after they got calls from their superiors.
Okhiria said even journalists were not spared the soldiers’ ordeal as their INEC accreditation cards and reflective jackets were ignored while each reporter was asked to produce his/her company ID cards. The soldiers, he said, told the reporters that they were not permitted to monitor the exercise from one unit to another as they were only allowed to monitor a particular unit.
A visibly angry Oshiomhole said, “Why the Nigerian Army will be used in this manner, only God knows”. On the accreditation process, the governor said, “It is clear they have serious problem taking off. As you can see, I am here and they say the card reader is not well programmed, it is not functioning and I got report from my Ward Headquarters that there are materials that are there and apparently the returning officers are trapped there because the soldiers wouldn’t let them cross their barricade”.
“I have spoken to the INEC REC in Benin and I believe that Professor Jega, the Chairman should be aware of what is going on in Edo where card readers are not working in many places. We have gotten reports from Benin and across the state and it appears the problem is rather widespread but it is my hope that INEC has sensible alternatives to invoke when we are in this kind of critical situation”.
It is already getting to a critical point; it is few minutes to 11:00am and some materials have not been able to reach here because the Army blocked the roads for INEC, and where INEC has reached, the machines are not working. I want to hope that this will be solved and so let us wait”, Oshiomhole said.